Before he gave his life to the service of the Church, the Reverend Peter Organ dedicated his passion to spaceships, sticker albums, orcs and laser-swords. Now married with two children of his own, he’s yet to find a cassock which covers the geek completely, and wonders how he’s going to explain his Warhammer collection to the Bishop…
As before, each episode is gets rated from 1 monkey (as bad as a Wesley jumper) to 5 monkeys ("I am Locutus of Borg"). Will I make it through the first season? Time will tell...
Arsenal Of Freedom
The Enterprise is looking for another missing vessel, this time the USS Drake captained by Paul Rice, an acquaintance of Riker’s. They track its last position down to the mysteriously empty planet of Minos, famous for providing armaments to any who can afford them (a bit like Britain then). When Riker’s away team is attacked by a probe, and the commander himself encased in a forcefield, Picard makes the "genius" decision to beam down with the Doctor. As the laws of lazy plotting demand, they end up falling down a hole, Crusher seriously injuring her arm in the process. Meanwhile the ship is under attack, and Geordi’s efforts to command are being hampered by another arsey chief engineer.
That plot synopsis exposes some of the problems of the episode. Throw in yet another naff-looking Blue Peter-quality alien planet (do they ever get any better?), another shonky acting performance by McFadden (she can’t even fall into a hole convincingly), and Riker being "Captain Slow" in not realising his old mukka Rice is actually a hollygram.
How does this story earn its average monkey score then? Well, the floaty probe things look okay, and move around quite niftily. It’s great to see the saucer separation take place again, and for a logical tactical reason too. Plus the episode rattles along at a fair pace, with plenty of action, though is a little rushed at the end. If it wasn't for the massive plot-poop that is Picard beaming down after his First Officer, I may even have stretched to a trio of monkeys.
Troi: "Captain, I take great exception to your decision to beam down."
Picard: "Noted." And ignored. Because I are an twot.
Orbiting a star that’s suffering violent eruptions, the Enterprise is hit by irregular magnetic bursts. Then they pick up a distress signal from that freighter from Star Trek III again (see Heart Of Glory), this time belonging to the Ornarans. The vessel is captained by David Marcus, or at least the guy that played him, attempting to buy medicine from Khan’s number two from Star Trek II (except he’s changed his name to Sobi, and is alive). The medicine is seemingly needed to keep David’s civilisation dying from a plague but has actually become a narcotic for the Ornarans and the Brekkans' only industry, leading to a rather unhealthy symbiotic relationship. (Hence the title - see what they did there?)
Oh dear, this episode features the Doctor. A lot. Forget Wesley Crusher being the most annoying character (although he does have a wince-inducing "only dopes do drugs" speech), it’s his mum who’s the real annoyance of the first season. I'm almost looking forward to Pulaski joining. Almost.
The guest stars do okay, though the fact half of them have Star Trek movie pedigree is a bit of a distraction. Their sparky hand attack thing is novel, an imaginative change from phasers, and the plot thickens at a nice pace as you realise the depths the Brekkans have stooped to. The Captain’s resolution to matters is nice too, utilising rather than side-stepping the Prime Directive ("Picard, yours is the superior intellect.").
Ultimately, with any other Trek doctor this would have been a lot more fun. Okay, any doctor other than Pulaski.
Sobi: "Picard, yours is the superior intellect". Oh wait, I imagined that one.
Skin Of Evil
Oh, okay, there’s a bit more to it than that. Troi’s shuttle goes down on Viagra I Vagra II, a fairly unknown planet but home to Armus, a big animated oil slick with a murderous attitude. The shit kicks off, and Yar dies1.
Another episode, another crummy looking planet set, which is a real shame because it features a lot in this episode. The Armus effect is a little better, though the lack of any features means it’s not really able to emote, robbing its final cries of frustration and pain of any real impact (though at least it had no knees to fall on in order to cry "Noooooo!"). Its voice also sounds rather too much like a demon from The Real Ghostbusters to take seriously.
The idea behind Armus is rather slick (sorry), the discarded evil from a superior race left to fester in its depravity. Sort of like Jim Davidson, but slightly less evil. Acting-wise the regulars pull out the stops, with Marina Sirtis giving a real air of vulnerability to Troi whilst still working on getting to the bottom of Armus’ pain, Frakes earning his keep by getting mightily slimed, and even McFadden puts in a decent performance. Despite knowing it was coming, Yar’s death also packed a punch, particularly since it came rather earlier in the episode than I remembered. All in all I was rather impressed, and was ready to give the episode three or four monkeys.
Then we got the "funeral" scene, which I really hadn't remembered being so naff. For starters, for no good reason it seems to be filmed on the set from Teletubbies. Then there’s the odd way Yar’s holographic message knows exactly who will be at her funeral and where they’ll be standing. Plus, the idea of someone giving their own eulogy is more than a bit creepy, though this may have something to do with the amount of time I spend in crematoriums. I wouldn't want too many eulogies beginning "I am speaking to you from beyond the grave!"
Picard: "Lieutenant Worf, you are now Acting Chief Of Security." YAY! (Too soon?)
Three more episodes to go, please let them be better than "meh".
1. I may be losing the will to live a bit with these plot synopses.
The Great Star Trek: TNG Rewatch continues next week!
The Great Star Trek: TNG Rewatch continues next week!